Advocacy and Other Business

As I conclude the third month of my term as president, I find myself spending a lot of time on advocacy efforts.

2020 is shaping up to be a year in which ATA focuses a great deal on state and national legislation affecting the translation and interpreting professions. As expected, California Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), which went into effect January 1, has had widespread negative consequences for many of our members in California. Similar legislation has been or will be proposed in other states.

In response, ATA is supporting the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC)1 in its efforts to drum up grassroots support for an amendment to the law, providing a specific exemption for translators and interpreters. Working with the Joint National Committee for Languages2 and CoPTIC, ATA issued an official statement3 in favor of such an exemption as well as an information sheet for use by members when advocating for such an exemption with their state legislators (see page 7). ATA also issued a statement in response to California Senate Bill 875, which proposes including translators and interpreters in the list of professional services that are exempt from the ABC Test requirement in AB 5.4 While well-intentioned, the proposed wording is very problematic and shows a lack of understanding of the translation and interpreting professions. A “clean” straightforward exemption for translators and interpreters remains the best solution to this problem. A victory in California will greatly facilitate obtaining similar exemptions in other states that pass strict versions of the ABC Test.

Through its membership in the Professional Certification Coalition5, ATA is also monitoring state legislation regarding voluntary certification programs to ensure that they do not negatively impact ATA’s Certification Program.

But not all proposed legislation has negative consequences for ATA members. H.R. 5339, the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act6, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Abigail Davis Spanberger, would permit ATA members to use 529 tax-preferred savings accounts to pay for expenses related to becoming certified (e.g., practice tests, exam preparation, and costs) and maintaining certification (e.g., continuing education requirements such as professional development training and attendance at the Annual Conference). I encourage you to contact your representatives and senators to urge them to support this bill.

It’s Not All Politics

But don’t think legislative advocacy is the only thing ATA and I have been working on for the past three months. Planning is well underway for ATA’s 61st Annual Conference, to be held in Boston October 21–24. (For more of what ATA61 has in store, see ATA President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s column on page 4 of this issue.) The Professional Development Committee continues to work on expanding and improving professional development opportunities, including webinars and in-person events, in part driven by the recent Professional Development Survey in which members provided topics of interest to them. At ATA Headquarters, the new website is nearing completion and should debut in the near future. The Membership Committee continues to examine ways to increase the value of ATA membership, to reach and recruit new members, and retain current members. The Governance and Communications Committee is working on policies to increase transparency at ATA.

I had hoped to report on these developments and other outcomes from the recent Board of Directors meeting here, but my submission deadline requires that I include that report in my next column. Until next time.

  1. Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California,
  2. Joint National Committee for Languages,
  3. Statement of Position Regarding California Assembly Bill 5 and Request for Exemption,
  4. ATA Statement on California SB 875 (Exemption to AB 5 for Translators and Interpreters),
  5. Professional Certification Coalition,
  6. H.R. 5339—Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act,

Boston, Here We Come!

Planning is in full swing for ATA’s 61st Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, set to take place October 21–24 at the Westin Waterfront Boston.

For many of us, this is the event of the year—known for the high level of professional development opportunities and networking available to members and attendees. As one 2019 attendee said about her experience, “It’s just wonderful! And I go back home energized.”

After enjoying the sunny days and chilly evenings in Palm Springs at ATA60, I’ve heard from many of you that you’re even more excited to head to the historic city of Boston this year. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

From Harvard Square and Beacon Hill to Freedom Trail and Faneuil Hall Marketplace, every corner of Boston has something to enjoy. For those of us who are self-proclaimed “foodies,” Boston is best known for its wonderful seafood—make sure you try a lobster roll and a bowl of clam chowder while you’re in town. And lest we forget our linguistic roots, you can’t visit Boston without appreciating the beautiful Boston accent! ATA members in the Boston area are eager to welcome their colleagues. (For more information on the New England Translators Association, check out their website listed in the sidebar.)

We anticipate even more attendees at the 2020 conference than we had in New Orleans and Palm Springs, respectively. After reviewing the results of the Professional Development Survey we recently conducted for members, we were able to gauge the kinds of topics you would like to see at the conference. From there, we sent out the call for conference proposals, highlighting the topics that were especially requested as a way to solicit presentations in these areas and prioritize the content our members need most. Hopefully many of the requested topics and areas will be well represented at the Boston conference as a result of this effort.

ATA President Ted Wozniak and I recently returned from a site visit to the host hotel for ATA61. And while we were in Boston for the Annual Conference in 2011 for ATA52, this year’s conference will be held in a different part of the city. The Westin Waterfront Boston, a newly renovated hotel, is located in the Seaport District near South Boston. This is an exciting area of town that boasts a great restaurant scene within walking distance and sites like the New England Aquarium, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and more. You can even arrive a day early to enjoy one of the Boston sightseeing trolley tours! Boston USA provides an official guide application for iPhone and Android users to find great deals, search the local events calendar, and purchase tickets to Boston attractions.

The Westin will house the majority of sessions, with just a handful of sessions and meetings taking place in the adjoining Boston Convention Center, a very short walk over the enclosed sky bridge. We’re planning some exciting new Advanced Skills and Training (AST) sessions for the Wednesday before the conference officially starts, and you’ll see tweaks and improvements to some of the evening events in an effort to make your conference an even greater experience and investment. We expect the room block at the Westin to fill rather quickly, so watch for the announcement to book your room soon! Registration for the Annual Conference will open in July.

It’s my sincere pleasure to be the conference organizer in my role as ATA president-elect. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions you have about the conference. See you in Boston!

What to Do and See in Boston

Boston Sightseeing Trolley Tours

Boston USA

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Fenway Park

Freedom Trail

Harvard Square

New England Aquarium

New England Translators Association

ATA at “Protect Translators. Protect Interpreters. Protect the World.”: A Panel Discussion at the United Nations

On December 11, 2019, the Permanent Missions of Spain and the Republic of Fiji to the United Nations, together with the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), hosted a panel discussion on the urgent need for enhanced legal and physical protection for translators and interpreters in high-risk settings. The event was co-organized on behalf of the world language community by Red T, a nonprofit advocating for laws and policies that promote the safety of linguists at risk.1

For the first time, the occasion brought together not only representatives from the major translator/interpreter (T&I) associations across the globe, but prominent humanitarian organizations whose support Red T was able to secure, including PEN International, Amnesty International’s Language Resource Centre, and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). In addition to ATA, the other T&I associations represented were the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, International Association of Translation and Intercultural Studies, International Federation of Translators, and the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters.

Risks and Vulnerabilities

In addition to discussing steps for mitigating risks and vulnerabilities, the panel also focused on what can be done to help translators and interpreters in conflict zones gain the international recognition and protection they deserve. The impressive list of panelists included:

  • María Bassols, ambassador and deputy permanent representative, Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations
  • Bill Miller, director of regional operations of UNDSS
  • Maya Hess, founder and chief executive officer of Red T
  • Betsy Fisher, director of strategy at IRAP
  • Lucio Bagnulo, head of translation at Amnesty International’s Language Resource Centre
  • Simona Škrabec, chair of PEN International’s Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee
  • Caroline Decroix, vice president of the Association des interprètes et auxiliaires afghans de l’Armée Française
  • Abdul Qaiyoum Najbullah Habibi, a conflict-zone interpreter
  • Moderator: Linda Fitchett, chair of AIIC’s Conflict Zone Interpreter Project

The precursor to the panel discussion was a roundtable held at the UN in April 20182, which explored the risks and vulnerabilities experienced by translators and interpreters working in conflict situations.

From left: Bill Miller, Linda Fitchett, Ambassador María Bassols, Maya Hess, Simona Škrabec, and Caroline Decroix

In her opening remarks, Moderator Linda Fitchett expressed the hope that the UN will move toward an international response to address the need for protecting translators and interpreters in conflict zones.

Ambassador Maria Bassols noted that Spain, a staunch supporter of a broad humanitarian agenda, believes that translators and interpreters play a critical role in international relations and enhance knowledge within the international community. The big question, though, is how to fit the issue of protection for this group into the UN agenda. While pointing out that visa programs are national programs run by sovereign states, Bassols also observed this does not mean that international criteria cannot guide these policies. She stressed, however, that there is a lack of information about the numbers involved and that more solid data is needed to take any further steps within the UN. Such steps could include the establishment of a UN working group or “group of friends” (an informal group of states formed to support the peacemaking of the UN), and even a resolution, although this last measure would require tremendous effort.

UNDSS Director Bill Miller, whose department protects people who “require extraordinary protection in the service of others,” explained that 44 areas around the world are now classified as high risk and above, and that translators and interpreters are key in helping bridge the gap of misunderstanding behind the social and nativist drivers that create high-risk areas.

Maya Hess then expanded on the fact that T&I protection is virtually absent in the current international legal regime, and that it can only be inferred. However, Hess stated that “ample and gruesome evidence has shown that inferential rights are not sufficient, especially since linguists affiliated with troops, humanitarian organizations, and the media often operate on the frontlines and in other violent settings.” She pointed out that this lack of protection is further compounded by “the diminishing relevance and protective power of the Geneva Conventions due to changes in the traditional model of warfare,” including “the growing tendency to outsource wars to private defense contractors whose profit motives supersede interpreter welfare.” To address these factors, Hess proposed various solutions, including:

  • Establishing a UN working group focused on this thematic.
  • Appointing a special rapporteur who would investigate and draft a report on the scope of the issue.
  • Drafting a document similar or iterative to the Montreux Document3, which outlines applicable law and best practices for private military and security companies in war zones.
  • Proposing a UN resolution that would articulate T&I rights and establish a normative framework for future protection. Hess noted that such a resolution would shift the paradigm of how conflict-zone linguists are perceived and treated—a shift that, in turn, would save lives.

Protecting Our Linguists

IRAP Director of Strategy Betsy Fisher addressed interpreter safety and offered some important statistics. For instance, she noted that 216 documented interpreters have been killed in Iraq. Family members not only face direct, personal, and credible death threats from those in their local communities, but are also seen as security threats by their employers. In one case, a contract interpreter placed a call to an insurgent at the direction of his employer and was subsequently suspected by his employer of having misplaced loyalties, specifically because of this phone call.

After noting that relocation programs are rife with backlogs, delays, and inexplicable red tape and essentially amount to merely remedial measures, Fisher described specific steps that can be taken in conflict zones to ensure the safety of translators and interpreters. For example, occupying forces must find ways to protect the identities of linguists, including:

  • Providing on-base housing so that linguists cannot be identified on their way to work.
  • Allowing linguists to wear masks, use pseudonyms, and relocate within the country.
  • Keeping accurate information about who has worked for them.

Next, Simona Škrabec spoke about PEN International’s efforts to protect and relocate translators living and working in war zones and other high-risk settings. Škrabec noted that PEN’s main focus is freedom of expression and that linguists, who serve as “pillars of peace and mutual understanding,” are especially vulnerable and exposed by virtue of their abilities. Some of the translators PEN International has helped resettle include:

  • Mohammad Habeeb, one of the most prominent translators in Syria, who was imprisoned for nine years due to his criticism of human rights violations committed by the al-Assad regime.
  • Ashur Etwebi, a well-known Libyan poet, novelist, and translator, who was forced to leave his home after an attack by militia and resettled in Trondheim, Norway.
  • Amani Lazar, a translator and writer from Syria, who was in a particularly vulnerable position as a woman in a war-torn area close to ISIS-held territory.

From left: Linda Fitchett, Pablo Gutiérrez, Ambassador Maria Bassols, and Maya Hess

Lucio Bagnulo, head of translation at Amnesty International’s Language Resource Centre, also spoke about the idea that freedom of expression cannot exist without translators and interpreters. After observing that language enables Amnesty InternationaI to do its work and that the importance of translation and interpreting cannot be overstated, he noted that the international community still does not have access to an instrument that provides translators and interpreters with protection at the international level. He similarly highlighted the need to provide support to translators and interpreters who work for non-governmental organizations, noting that these linguists face as much risk as those employed by occupying forces.

French attorney Caroline Decroix described her battle with the French government to protect Afghan interpreters who worked for the French army. The French government was in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014 and employed approximately 800 Afghan nationals, largely as interpreters under fixed-term contracts. As the French forces started to withdraw in 2012, several criteria were introduced for relocating these linguists to France, including assessing the threat level to the person concerned, the quality of services rendered, and the ability to integrate into French society. Under these criteria, only 73 people were accepted, and under revised criteria submitted three years later, only 100 more were accepted. In the fall of 2018, 51 additional families were admitted to France under a third procedure. There are a number of cases still pending, which points to the need for a harmonized response from the UN, since selection criteria for relocation vary from one country to another and create inequality within the interpreter community.

Finally, the panel heard from Abdul Qaiyoum Najbullah via video recording. Najbullah worked for the U.S. and Canadian armed forces from late 2007 to 2013. He took on this work because he saw it as a way to provide for his family while helping bring peace to his homeland. In 2010, however, his parents were murdered due to his collaboration with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and he was forced to flee. He paid a human trafficker to take him to Germany, a journey that lasted over seven months and at times involved greater risk than working for ISAF in Afghanistan. The rest of his story is best told in his own words:

“After arriving in Germany, I found one of my Canadian team members I worked with in Afghanistan. I was facing deportation from Germany to Austria and Hungary because of the Dublin Treaty and asked him for help. He promised that he would take me to Canada. After that, Joe Warmington, a journalist from the Toronto Sun, started writing articles about me. Red T read my story, got involved, and helped me. I was stuck without money in a refugee camp in southern Germany and needed to get to the Canadian Embassy in Berlin for a visa. Red T contacted the German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators and asked them to bring me to my visa interview. Together with Joe Warmington, they kept my case in the news and on social media. All this worked—I got my visa and landed in Canada on April 15, 2016.”

The Need for an International Response

The panel concluded with additional contributions from policy experts and a lively discussion. The overall message to attending member states was, to use Hess’ words: “The time has come for an international response to what is an international problem, and we call on the UN to firmly place the protection of linguists on its Protection-of-Civilians agenda.”

  1. To learn more about Red-T, visit
  2. Gunderson, Lucy. “ATA at ‘Protect Translators and Interpreters, Protect the World’: A Roundtable at the United Nations,” The ATA Chronicle (July/August 2018), 7,
  3. The Montreux Document is the result of an international process launched by the government of Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross. It’s an intergovernmental document intended to promote respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law whenever private military and security companies are present in armed conflicts. It was ratified in Montreux, Switzerland, in September 2008. For more information, see

Lucy Gunderson, CT is an ATA-certified Russian>English translator specializing in human rights, legal documents, and academic translation. She is also a past chair of ATA’s Divisions Committee and a former administrator of the Slavic Languages Division. Contact:

Vicarious Trauma and Interpreters

(The following was originally published on the blog of ATA’s Interpreters Division,

The first time I heard of interpreters experiencing vicarious trauma was in 2000. First it was mentioned in relation to the interpreters working during a trial related to the Balkan Wars at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. But the idea was quickly expanded to include all interpreters working directly with victims of crime and/or medical patients. Simultaneously, the sign language community was becoming acutely aware of the impact of vicarious trauma on our sign language colleagues.

Generally, vicarious trauma is understood to be the emotional residue of exposure that counselors have from working with people as they hear trauma stories and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured. According to the American Counseling Association, it’s important not to confuse vicarious trauma with “burnout.” Interpreters may be more at risk because they restate the facts related in first person, especially when this is combined with a phenomenon called “receptor fatigue,” which is a biological response to overstimulation of one of the senses.

Below, you’ll find a listing of some of the articles, books, trainings, and other reference material available on the subject. This is not a complete or exhaustive review of what’s available, but it seeks to provide a clear sampling of what is being written and studied.

Sign Language

Here’s a sample of the material produced by the sign language and American Sign Language community

  • Harvey, Michael A. “Shielding Yourself from the Perils of Empathy: The Case of Sign Language Interpreters,” Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (April 2003), 207–213,
  • Lai, Miranda, Georgina Heydon, and Sedat Mulayim. “Vicarious Trauma Among Interpreters,” International Journal of Interpreter Education (May 2015),
  • Macdonald, Jami L. “Vicarious Trauma as Applied to the Professional Sign Language Interpreter,” Montview Liberty University Journal of Undergraduate Research (2015),
  • Andert, Olivia L., and Allison P. Trites. “Vicarious Trauma Among Sign Language Interpreters: A Pilot Study,” (Northeastern University, 2014),
  • Lor, Mailee. “Effects of Client Trauma on Interpreters: An Exploratory Study.” (St. Catherine University, 2012),


In the medical interpreting world, vicarious trauma has also become a subject of concern. Some of the trainings and articles available in this field include:

  • The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care Trainers Webinar is free for members or available to nonmembers for $30. You can find links to the webinar and slides at
  • A 2018 presentation by Ludmila Golovine, “Vicarious Trauma and Professional Interpreters,” is available as a free webinar on the California Healthcare Interpreting Association’s YouTube channel:
  • Knodel, Rebekah K. “Coping with Vicarious Trauma in Mental Health Interpreting,” Journal of Interpretation (Registry for Interpreters of the Deaf, 2018),


Marjory Bancroft, a specialist in this field, authored a 40-hour curriculum called Voices of Love and began publishing a blog in 2015 under the same name. Unfortunately, that project is not funded and not currently active, but you can read the blog archives here:

There is, however, a 30-hour curriculum called Breaking Silence, a training for interpreters working in victim services, that has a lot of content for addressing both interpreting for trauma and managing its effects. A set of materials by Marjory Bancroft, Katharine Allen, Carola Green, and Lois Feuerle is available free for download from Ayuda:

Other Publications of Note from within the Interpreting World

  • Justine Ndongo-Keller’s “Vicarious Trauma and Stress Management” appears in Chapter 21 of The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting, edited by Holly Mikkelson and Renée Jourdenais (Routledge, 2015),
  • Swain, Martyn. “Reliving the Nightmares of Others,” International Association of Conference Interpreters (October 2019),

Scientific and General Interest Journals

Articles of interest published in other scientific and general interest journals include:

  • Vigor, Jana. “Vicarious Trauma and the Professional Interpreter,” The Trauma and Mental Health Report (January 2012),
  • Kindermann, D., C. Schmid, C. Derreza-Greeven, D. Huhn, R.M. Kohl, F. Junee, M. Schleyer, J.K. Daniels, B. Ditzen, W. Herzon, and C. Mikendei. “Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Secondary Traumatization in Interpreters for Refugees: A Cross-Sectional Study,” Psychopathology (July 2017),
  • Darroch, Emma, and Raymond Dempsey. “Interpreters’ Experiences of Transferential Dynamics, Vicarious Traumatisation, and Their Need for Support and Supervision: A Systematic Literature Review,” The European Journal of Counselling Psychology (2016),
  • Splevins, Kevin, Keren Cohen, Stephen Joseph, Craig Murray, and Jake Bowley. “Vicarious Post Traumatic Growth Among Interpreters,” Sage Journals (July 2010),
  • Mehus, Christopher, and Emily Becher. “Secondary Traumatic Stress, Burnout, and Compassion Satisfaction in a Sample of Spoken-Language Interpreters,” Traumatology (December 2016),
  • “The Cost of Caring.” A Report by NIMDZI Insights, a short version of which is available at:

Vicarious trauma constitutes an area where there is still much opportunity for research and study. Such further research, as well as raising awareness of the issues, can help foster greater public understanding and appreciation of the profession and may help enable interpreters to advocate with regard to their working conditions and even fair compensation.

Cristina Helmerichs is an ATA director and chair of ATA’s Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee. She has more than 30 years of interpreting and translation experience as an English<>Spanish conference and judicial interpreter. She is certified as an interpreter by both the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT). She has been a consultant to the Federal Court Interpreters Certification Program and the National Center for State Courts Interpreting Training Program. She is also an interpreter trainer. She serves on the Texas Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators’ Education Committee. She was ATA’s and NAJIT’s technical adviser to the European Union’s Grotius II Project. Contact:

Interpreters are a vital part of ATA. This column is designed to offer insights and perspectives from professional interpreters.

Talking with the Developer of GT4T

Dallas Cao is the developer of GT4T1, a little, unobtrusive application that allows you to connect from any Windows or Mac application to a large range of machine translation (MT) engines. As such, it represents a different way of accessing MT suggestions from many of the translation environment tools within their interfaces, and it also allows you to access MT suggestions from within any non-translation-specific environment. Also, you can use GT4T to automatically override terminology used by the MT engines. I talked to Dallas about the history of the tool, its features, and his future plans.

Jost: More and more translators use MT as one of their resources for translation. Professional translators who are using a translation environment or computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool usually use an API-based2 connector to a MT engine that brings the MT suggestions right into their environment alongside translation memory matches, term base suggestions, and other resources. Your tool, GT4T, deals with MT differently. But before we get into what it actually does and how it can be used, tell us a little bit about GT4T’s history and why you chose to create it in the first place.

Dallas: The original idea of GT4T is simple. You select a portion of source text and press a keyboard shortcut, and the selection is then replaced by Google’s MT translation.

I started working on GT4T for my personal use as early as 2009, when the neural MT engine was nonexistent and MT was little more than a laughingstock. But I found while MT was almost always bad at understanding the structure of a sentence, it could be used to translate phrases. I wanted to have a tool that would allow humans to decide and choose which part of a sentence to be “translated” by MT on the fly without disrupting their workflow.

I was a translator who had never thought of becoming a programmer. If there had been such a tool then, I would have been a happy user of it and there would never have been a GT4T.

The first version of GT4T was written as a Microsoft Word macro and only worked in Microsoft Word. I was excited to find that it was even more useful than I had initially thought, and very soon the idea of selling it came to my mind. There are always phrases that human translators know MT will certainly do well with, like a list of country names. Using GT4T would simply save some keystrokes. With time, that alone would be a huge productivity gain.

To make a long story short, the spirit of entrepreneurship is to continually push a simple idea forward and see how far it can go. With some twists and turns, GT4T has grown in features and translation quality. As MT gets better, GT4T automatically gets better too! I have also grown into a confident programmer.

J: Let’s talk about the tool itself. It runs on Windows and Mac and gives access to Google Translate (either the neural or the statistical MT engine), Microsoft Translator, DeepL Pro, Yandex, and a variety of Chinese-based providers, including Baidu, Youdao, Tencent, Sogou, CloudTranslation, and NiuTrans. The user can select which engines—and which language combination—they want to use, and upon highlighting text in any application and pressing a keyboard combination, the result(s) is displayed in a pop-up window. If any of the suggestions are helpful, they can replace the original text in the originating application. Am I correct so far? Do you want to talk about some other features that differentiate GT4T?

D: GT4T also offers special shortcuts that allow you to automatically translate segments in a CAT tool like SDL Trados Studio or memoQ. You can hit a shortcut to translate the current segment or several segments. The shortcuts work in a long list of CAT tools, including web-based ones like Smartling and Crowdin.

Other than MT engines, GT4T also helps access various online dictionaries in the same fashion—without having to leave your working environment or open a browser window. You can use a shortcut to submit your selection simultaneously to several online dictionaries, glossaries, or terminology sites like the Interactive Terminology for Europe (the EU’s terminology database), Microsoft Glossary, or the terminology collection at GT4T goes one step further than similar tools like IntelliWebSearch. Instead of automatically opening the webpages, GT4T collects the dictionary results and displays them in a pop-up window. The user can pick a translation and hit Enter to insert it into the document in which they are working.

J: One interesting feature of GT4T you didn’t mention is the custom-made glossary that automatically replaces terms in the MT suggestions. I assume that it’s particularly valuable for languages with no morphology, like Chinese. What about languages with rich morphology (which I assume will result in a lot of missed replacements)? Can the user apply some kind of wildcard to find morphological variants? And is there a way to accommodate things like gender and possible automatic replacement of articles or pronouns?

D: The replacement feature doesn’t support wildcards, just exact matches, and there’s no way to accommodate things like gender, nor are there any future plans for this. A feature like that would require a team of linguists who know many languages. So far, GT4T is still a one-man endeavor, and I have no plan to have a team or incorporate it.

I have limited knowledge of linguistics and don’t know how well the replacement feature would work with language pairs other than English>Chinese. However, I know of at least one Dutch>English translator who is very excited about this feature, so I assume it’s also useful for languages with rich morphology when properly used.

Other than replacing MT translation results, users can also use glossaries to keep their translations consistent. The glossary file is an Excel spreadsheet and users can easily import old translations or add items. To find out how a term is translated in previous translations, you’ll just have to select it and press a shortcut. And you’re not limited to one CAT tool or app. You can search the glossary anywhere in any app.

J: I personally think that MT as a translation resource is often more useful on a subsegment level. The way that’s often done in translation environments is to have the tool automatically select subsegments from a longer MT suggestion on the basis of keystrokes. Is that something that’s possible with your tool? And if not, are you thinking of introducing something like that?

D: Yes, that’s actually the original idea of GT4T! You select a chunk of text, whether it be a phrase or even a word, where you think MT will do a good job. I always want GT4T to be used only as a productivity tool, a reference. Translators use it to save a few keystrokes, or get translation suggestions on a subsegment, or simply when their brain stops at a word and needs to be nudged.

J: But that’s not really what I mean. What I mean is rather than manually highlighting a fragment and looking for a translation, it’s much more efficient to have various MT suggestions in the background that display fragments only when there are matches between the first few keystrokes of the translator within their translation environment and something within the MT suggestions. I understand that this is possibly not as relevant in a target language like Chinese, but it is for many other languages. Is that something that could be implemented?

D: That’s an interesting idea, and would be revolutionary if this could be done. GT4T is a standalone app that offers system-wide keyboard shortcuts. It cannot “see” the text of a document until a user makes a selection and hits a shortcut. Perhaps it’s easier for CAT tool developers to implement this feature within their tools. It could also be an add-on. As a standalone app, GT4T would probably need to pre-translate documents first in the background. I’ll think about it.

J: In your tool, it’s possible to enter personal API keys for the various MT engines. I assume this means that I would then receive suggestions from that respective engine via my own API and pay for it. How is that different from receiving suggestions without me entering an API? Can users access their own customized engines at Google or Microsoft like this? I assume that you’re also accessing the engines via your API key and that you need to pay for that. How does that work for you financially? Also, some users who use your tool to access DeepL Pro cannot access it otherwise because they’re living outside the European Union. Suggestions from DeepL Pro are more expensive than those from other tools. How do you account for that?

D: Yes, users can choose either to use their own API and pay a small subscription fee for GT4T, or buy a plan that already includes MT data. There’s no difference between using your own API or the built-in API. You get the same results from the MT engine. I haven’t started on the customized engines yet, but I’ll certainly study them when I have time.

GT4T offers very flexible plans. Users can buy either time-based packages that have no usage-limit, or character-based packages with no time-limit. I pay MT engines on the basis of the number of characters used. Time-based licenses work on only one computer at a time, but you can install a character-based license on up to 30 computers. I calculate profits for each purchase using server-side scripts. Occasionally I do actually end up paying more for a user than they pay me, but on the whole I make money from time-based licenses. But the danger is real: theoretically, a very hard-working translator on a time-based plan could bankrupt me, and I don’t have a plan for that.

GT4T is also valuable as a free tool. The dictionary, glossary feature, and two MT engines (Yandex and Tencent) are actually free.

J: Let’s talk about the accessible engines I listed earlier. What I’m missing are engines such as Amazon Translate, SDL BeGlobal, PROMT, and Naver Papago. How do you decide which engines to include, and can users ask you to add engines?

D: The first thing I consider is translation quality. It seems DeepL and Google excel in quality, and there’s no urgency to add more engines. I seriously consider suggestions from users. Some engines don’t offer API access. I recently added Systran at the request of a user and later removed it because I couldn’t reach an agreement with Systran. I recommended NiuTrans to her and she was happy with it. By the way, NiuTrans is a dark horse that deserves more attention. It performs pretty well, even for European
language pairs.

J: I’m not sure I agree completely. For instance, in the case of Naver Papago (whose engineer we interviewed in the November/December issue3), the results are often judged better by Korean users. Amazon also might produce better results in some language combinations. Maybe it would be possible to just add the framework so users can add their own API keys for some engines that are not supported?

D: Thanks for updating me with this information and recommending Naver Papago and other engines. If they offer API access and I can reach an agreement with them, I’ll certainly add them to GT4T. Users certainly will then be able to use their own API as well.

J: Here’s a question about security and privacy. You’re located in China, which might be a concern to some users or their clients. Are requests to the various MT engines actually visible to you and/or do you store that data? Or does your tool just facilitate the connection between the user and the respective MT engine so you don’t actually ever get to the data?

D: Neither the requests nor the replies from MT servers are visible to me or are being collected. When a user selects some text and presses a GT4T shortcut, the selection is sent directly to the respective MT servers and then the user receives replies from them. GT4T collects the following for licensing purposes: a unique hardware code and the number of characters you submit to MT servers through GT4T. The last time you used GT4T and your IP address are also collected automatically by the GT4T licensing server. They’re actually collected by all websites you visit, and it takes hard work not to collect them.

J: Any future plans with GT4T that might be interesting for us?

D: I’m currently working on a new version that does document translation. It will support many file types, including popular CAT file types as well as Microsoft Office types. Users will then be able to translate their documents without having to upload them to a server, and they can even browse a folder and ask GT4T to translate all the files in the folder and subfolders in the background. Your idea of providing suggestions while a user is typing is also helpful. I’ll reevaluate it and other suggestions that you brought up.

As the sole developer of this app, my strength is flexibility, but I also know my limits. Frankly, I’ve been hugely dependent on users’ suggestions and reports for new features, and sometimes even for debugging.

Remember, if you have any ideas and/or suggestions regarding helpful resources or tools you would like to see featured, please e-mail Jost Zetzsche at

  1. You can check out GT4T at
  2. API stands for application programming interface, and is the technology that allows different programs to talk with each other (such as Trados or GT4T with Google Translate).
  3. Zetzsche, Jost. “Thoughts on Naver Papago with MT Engineer Lucy Park,” The ATA Chronicle (November/December 2019), 30,

Dallas Cao is an English>Chinese translator and self-taught programmer. He developed GT4T, a Windows/Mac app that allows users to use online machine translation and dictionaries in any programs without having to open the browser. Contact:

Jost Zetzsche is chair of ATA’s Translation and Interpreting Resources Committee. He is the author of Translation Matters, a collection of 81 essays about translators and translation technology. Contact:

Changes in ATA Continuing Education Requirements

ATA introduced continuing education requirements for certification in 2004. Prior to that, ATA certification was a “once-and-done” system, meaning that individuals who passed the exam remained certified as long as they remained ATA members. Introducing continuing education requirements brought the Association more in line with the practices of other credentialing bodies, where it had long been commonplace to require credentialed persons to submit proof of activities and experiences that advance professional development.

In the intervening 16 years, the criteria for earning continuing education points (CEPs) have remained largely static. In a number of cases, the Certification Program manager has fielded requests to award CEPs for activities not explicitly addressed in the original materials on continuing education. Quite a few of these requests have been granted, but the overall structure for awarding CEPs has remained the same.

For that reason, a year ago the Certification Committee created a Continuing Education Task Force to consider changes in the continuing education criteria, so that they might better reflect the realities of today’s translation profession and marketplace. In July 2019, the task force presented its recommendations to the Board, which approved the changes. A few tweaks were subsequently made and approved by the Board when it met during the Annual Conference in Palm Springs. The changes took effect at the beginning of this year.

Here’s a summary of what’s new:

Exemption for Age 60+: Previously, certified translators (CTs) were exempted from reporting CEPs once they reached the age of 60. Now, the reporting requirement continues regardless of age. This means that CTs who are 60 years of age or older must submit CE points, but are exempt from paying the recertification fee. This change does not apply to those who already claimed the over 60 exemption in the past, or to those born before January 1, 1963.

Online Courses: Previously, conferences, courses, workshops, and seminars on translation and interpreting (whether online or onsite) were reported as Category A (which earns the highest number of points). Now, this applies only to interactive online events. Non-interactive online courses must be reported as Category B (independent study). Proof that an online course was interactive must be submitted to qualify for Category A.

Other Category A Changes: Events are capped at no more than five points per day (one hour = one point), or up to 10 points for multi-day events. Previously, it was possible to earn points by reading articles in the ATA Conference Proceedings, but this possibility has now been eliminated.

Category B (Independent Study): The maximum reportable points for this category has been lowered from 15 points to five points per reporting period. Also, the ATA Independent Study Verification Paper that was already required for each activity must now be accompanied by a statement of how the activity relates to the CT’s professional development.

Category F: This category allowed points for “translating and interpreting work experience involving particularly challenging assignments, allowing the member to expand his/her translation and interpreting capabilities.” The Continuing Education Task Force
found this to be especially vague and difficult to verify, so this category has been eliminated.

Category G (Now Category F): This category related to membership in professional associations, allowing one point per membership up to a maximum of four points per reporting period. As of 2020, the maximum per reporting period is three points, and this is limited to associations “related to the translating and interpreting professions, other than ATA.” CTs may also receive CEPs for membership in professional associations related to their work as translators in a specialized field (e.g., law, medicine, and engineering). In addition, proof of membership must be provided for three consecutive years during the reporting period. In the case of specialized fields, a statement of how membership in the association relates to the CT’s work must also be submitted.

Approving Events for Awarding CEPs: In recent years, the Certification Program manager has spent an increasing amount of time processing seemingly frivolous requests for approval to award CEP points for events that have little or nothing to do with translation. To address this situation, the new policy states that any ATA individual or corporate member may apply free of charge to have an activity or event approved for awarding CEPs. Nonmember entities may apply for such approval (for a fee) only if they are nonprofit organizations or educational institutions involved in the translating and interpreting professions. Nonmember for-profit entities may not apply for or receive approval for awarding ATA CEPs.

Nonmembers: In the event that ATA membership is eliminated as a requirement for earning and maintaining certification, nonmember CTs will have to satisfy the same reporting requirements for maintaining certification as member CTs (proof of 20 CEPs every three years). Nonmembers would be required to pay the review fee regardless of age, and the certification renewal fee for nonmember CTs would be higher than that paid by ATA members.

ATA recognizes that because of the three-year reporting period, there may be individuals who planned to claim points for activities that have now been eliminated, or for which the point cap has been lowered. The Certification Program manager (contact is willing to work on a case-by-case basis with anyone who believes they have been unfairly disadvantaged by any of these changes with respect to an upcoming reporting deadline.

On a related note, it has been proposed that an online system for logging certification points be made available to members, so stay tuned for news about that. Finally, see for full information about continuing education requirements.

David Stephenson, CT is the chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. An ATA-certified German>English, Dutch>English, and Croatian>English translator, he has been an independent translator for over 30 years, specializing in civil litigation and creative nonfiction. Contact:

AB 5: It’s Not Just in California

The recent passage of Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) in California, which implements the stringent “ABC Test” embodied in the Dynamex decision and mandates classification of translators and interpreters as employees, is already disrupting our profession in California. Translators and interpreters in California have reported receiving notices from language services companies saying that they will no longer use California-based service providers in response to the new law. And those companies are not just in California. Out-of-state companies have stated their intention to stop using translators and interpreters in California because they fear the legislation applies to anyone hiring in the state.

But that’s not all. As predicted, other states, such as New York and New Jersey, have now begun legislative initiatives to implement the ABC Test (see sidebar) based on the California model. While freelance translators and interpreters would normally meet the A and C provisions of the ABC Test, provision B—“work outside the employer’s business”—forces all language services companies/agencies to classify translators and interpreters as employees. Such treatment is counter to the desire of the majority of ATA’s members and runs counter to long-standing practice in our industry. ATA issued a statement against the inclusion of translators and interpreters in the scope of AB 5 prior to its passage.1 ATA has now issued a similar position paper advocating for an express exemption for professional translators and interpreters.

In addition to ATA, the American Association of Language Specialists, International Association of Conference Interpreters, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, and Association of Language Companies have all issued position statements in favor of an explicit exemption for translators and interpreters from AB 5.

The Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC) was founded to advocate for an exemption from AB 5. CoPTIC has hired a lobbyist and is holding meetings with interested stakeholders throughout the state to inform them about the implications of AB 5 and to promote grassroots efforts in favor of an exemption. ATA is actively supporting the efforts of the Coalition, and I encourage all members of ATA to visit their website2 or send an email ( to learn more. Support their efforts if you believe that translators and interpreters should have a choice in their classification as independent contractors or employees.

ATA recognizes that some members, in particular community interpreters, may work “full time” for a single hiring entity and therefore should be classified as employees. Anyone who feels they should be classified as an employee can file a complaint with the California Labor Standards Commission or the Employment Development Department and make their case. But the vast majority of our members are indeed independent contractors and wish to be classified as such.

I strongly encourage our members in California to support CoPTIC’s efforts for an exemption and to contact their state assembly persons and senators.3 Just as the passage of AB 5 in California is serving as a model for other states, gaining an exemption in California will also serve as a model and make it easier for professional translators and interpreters to be exempt from being classified as “gig economy” workers in other states. Members in New York and New Jersey are also encouraged to contact their state legislators now, explain why mandatory classification is so harmful to you, and urge them to specifically exempt translators and interpreters from mandatory employee classification. I ask all other members to be on the lookout for similar legislative efforts in their states and to inform me if similar legislation is proposed. We can only protect our profession by showing a united front and through grassroots efforts to educate our state legislators.

AB 5/Dynamex Primer

Borello Test: Refers to a 1989 California Supreme Court decision that resulted in an 11-factor test to determine contractor status, primarily focusing on “control.”
Dynamex: A 2018 California Supreme Court case that resulted in application of the “ABC Test,” the classification basis embodied in AB 5 that is far more stringent than the Borello Test.
ABC Test: Under the ABC Test, a worker is presumed to be an employee unless all three of the following conditions are true:

  1. That the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  2. That the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. That the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.
  1. Statement of Position Regarding California Assembly Bill 5 and Request for Exemption,
  2. Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California,
  3. Find Your California Representative,

Annual Treasurer’s Report for 2018–2019

The sun has been shining on ATA for a few years now, financially speaking, allowing us to make quite a bit of hay. Our unaudited figures1 for the most recent fiscal year (2018–2019), which ended in July, however, indicate that cloudy weather is on the horizon. Membership is stagnant and has even declined a bit. Conference attendance has been trending lower and isn’t expected to improve this year. At the same time, baseline expenses have either remained unchanged or continued to rise, which we need to address through budgeting.

It’s not all bad news, though.

Overall, ATA’s financial situation remains sound. We’ve taken advantage of the positive results from the past five years to provide a cushion for just this type of situation. Surplus funds have been prudently managed and invested so that we have money available for rainy days.

The upshot is that we don’t need to panic, but we do need to be vigilant and aware of our financial reality moving forward, especially when making decisions that affect the budget.

Year-on-Year Review

2017–2018 2018–2019
Membership2 9,616 (10,358) 9,210 (10,004)
Total Revenue $3.28 million $3.07 million
Total Expenses $2.99 million $3.24 million
Change in Net Assets $286,797 (-$169,104)
Total Assets $3.07 million $2.86 million
Total Liabilities $1.59 million $1.44 million
Conference Attendance3 1,344 1,377


Revenue and Expenses

For the 2018–19 fiscal year, Total Revenue (See Figure 1) was just $3.07 million, while our Total Expenses (See Figure 2) came in at $3.24 million. The result (-$169,104) is our first negative Change in Net Assets (before investment activities) in over five years.

For comparison’s sake, a year ago our net assets grew by $290,070, mostly because the conference in Washington, DC made more money than the one in New Orleans.

Year-on-year, things are likewise moving in the wrong direction (see table above). Total revenue dropped (-6.6%) from $3.28 million to $3.07 million, while total expenses continued to rise (+8%) from $2.99 million up to $3.24 million. The main culprit on the expense side was Supporting Services (i.e., our overhead).


In terms of ATA’s main revenue streams, Membership ($1.85 million) was down (-2.5%) from a year ago, while the Conference ($826,829) in New Orleans brought in substantially less money (-20.2%) than the one in DC. In a distant third place, Certification revenue ($284,235) was actually a bright spot, up 12% from 2018. This increase resulted from a combination of more test-takers sitting for the exam before the testing fee rose on January 1, 2019, and the higher fee now in place during the second half of the fiscal year.

A few other noteworthy items in the revenue department include:

  • The ATA Chronicle’s already meager revenue ($24,985 in 2018) fell to just $10,146 in 2019. In our current format, it’s unlikely to bring in much income, which means that it must now be fully subsidized by membership dues.
  • Fewer webinars this fiscal year meant that their revenue was lower (-38.5%), with only 418 people paying this year, compared to 697 people a year before.
  • On the positive side, two seminars were offered this year, resulting in a big jump in revenue, from $9,490 to $38,514.
  • Other Revenue was also up, 34% for the year, with every item yielding positive results. Income from the “Certified Interpreter” credential rose by 27%, royalties from professional liability insurance also rose by 27%, and revenue from ATAware shot up by 121%.

Figure 1: Breakdown of Total Revenue for FY2018–19: ATA has two main sources of revenue—Membership Dues and the Annual Conference—which accounted for 87% of incoming funds this fiscal year. The Certification Program provides a third, much-smaller stream, at just 9% of total revenue.


Figure 2: Breakdown of Total Expenses for FY2018–19: Our budget includes a wide array of expenses. Most of ATA’s money (73% of the total) gets spent on programs, administration, and membership services, while the Annual Conference (27%) is our single biggest program expense. 


ATA’s single largest outlay this fiscal year was Supporting Services (i.e., salaries, administration, officers, volunteers), at $981,339, up 28.8% from a year ago. Much of this increase came from General/Administrative expenses, including $81k in website redesign, $42k in programming costs, and $12k in IT security. In addition, fewer staff hours were allocated to program services, resulting in a big jump (48%) in overhead Salaries/Benefits. Public Relations/Marketing expenses were also higher, in part through efforts such as attending the New York Book Fair. Spending on Volunteers/Governance, though, was actually down (-45%).

The Annual Conference, normally our biggest expense, cost considerably less than a year ago, at $882,413 (-14.2%). A less-expensive event is one of the pluses of smaller-city venues. However, they also tend to bring in less revenue, as was the case in New Orleans, which negates the lower cost.

After that, our next three expense categories were: Certification ($450,734), Membership Services ($379,578), and The ATA Chronicle ($231,445). The most significant increase was in the Certification Program, where expenses were up 16.4%, with exam grading costs rising by 58%. Membership Services were also 39% higher year-on-year with the roll-out of new marketing efforts aimed at trying to bring in more members.

Major Program Results

ATA funds a variety of programs, some of which generate income that helps defray their costs. Most, however, are funded through membership dues.

When the Annual Conference has been held in major metropolitan areas, it has not only tended to pay for itself, but also contributed to ATA’s bottom line. However, the 2018 conference in New Orleans and last year’s conference Palm Springs were smaller affairs. So, while they have covered their direct costs, they haven’t produced surpluses to help offset the overhead needed to organize them.

Likewise, Certification and Professional Development generate a bit of revenue, which ends up covering some of their respective costs. Other programs, though, such as Divisions, The ATA Chronicle, and Publications, are essentially just membership benefits, which means that they don’t produce a significant amount of income.

Our programs’ financial results for FY2018–2019 are presented in the bar chart in Figure 3 below. The yellow-colored section in the bars represents the gain or loss for each program. To understand the chart, look at the Certification Program on the far left. It brought in $284,235 in revenue, incurred $450,734 in expenses, and thus ended the year at –$166,499. This difference has to be subsidized by membership dues. On the other hand, the Conference nearly broke even, generating $826,829 in revenue versus $882,413 in expenses, resulting in a small loss.

Figure 3: Financial Results for FY2018–2019 (Note: Figures rounded to the nearest thousand)


Figure 4: Investment Accounts

Assets, Liabilities, and Net Assets

In terms of ATA’s longer-term status, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. For now, though, we remain on fairly solid financial ground.

The headline figure from our Statement of Position (balance sheet) for FY2018–2019, which can be found on page 11, is a (-6.7%) decline in Total Assets, from $3.07 million a year ago to $2.86 million this year. Our Total Liabilities also fell during this same period (-5.8%), from $1.53 million to $1.44 million, mostly as a result of a drop in membership.

The good news, though, is that what ATA holds in cash, investments, etc., is still worth much more than it owes to others. In fact, this difference, which on the Statement of Position is recorded as Net Assets, did decrease a bit, from $1.55 million a year ago to $1.43 million this year, but it’s still a healthy number for an association our size.

An important component of our sound situation comes from ATA’s Investments. As mentioned at the outset of this report, we have continued to sock money away during the good times to prepare for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

For instance, at this time a year ago, we had $1.07 million invested in equities and fixed income. Now, these conservatively managed funds are up to $1.27 million. We also have $1.13 million held in cash, which we have been able to draw on for improvements to the Association that include association management software at ATA Headquarters and a website upgrade and redesign. These instruments conform to ATA’s investment policy, which seeks to protect our capital. And we now have a strategic reserves policy in place to help the Board make decisions about when and how to use the funds at our disposal. Details of our investment allocation are presented in Figure 4 above.


As usual, there is not much to report on the Liabilities side of the ledger. Things tend to stay fairly constant from one fiscal year to the next. The biggest percentage change year-on-year this time around occurred in Short-term Payables, which dropped from $67,399 at this time in 2018, to $0 right now, because of payment timing issues. Payables are cleared out once checks are issued for payment, so this figure can vary quite a bit depending on the dates selected.

In any case, the takeaway with respect to ATA’s liabilities is that things are pretty much the same as they have been, and that is just fine.

Looking Ahead: ATA60 and 2020
The 2019 Annual Conference in Palm Springs was a departure from the model that ATA has followed in recent years. With the event in a smaller city, at a conference center rather than in a conference hotel, the expectation is that costs will be lower, but overall attendance is expected to be lower as well. Once we have the final numbers, we’ll see whether this model is financially feasible moving forward.

Around 1,350 people attended ATA59 in New Orleans in 2018, while nearly 1,800 people came to ATA58 in Washington, DC. For the conference in Palm Springs, we budgeted much more conservatively, expecting around 1,150 people to attend. Preliminary figures indicate that we have already exceeded that estimate, with attendance actually surpassing the 2018 conference in New Orleans.

Looking ahead, ATA finds itself in a comfortable financial position for now, but as an association, we are trending in the wrong direction. A number of challenges lie on the horizon. While the language services market as a whole is growing, technology continues to modify the role that translators and interpreters play in it. Consolidation among companies in the sector is affecting market dynamics, and price pressure for freelancers is very real. In addition, trade wars, Brexit, and other economic factors have increased uncertainty in the global economy. For all these reasons, continued, prudent, financial management is a must.

One of ATA’s financial goals is to ensure that we have sufficient funds on hand to cover at least six months of operating expenses. In addition, we need to be able to make improvements to the Association’s technology and overall structure in response to an evolving marketplace. Our decisions in recent years have put us in a favorable position to do so.

  1. All figures are rounded off unless otherwise indicated. Rounding differences may arise in totals. Adjustments by the auditors will likely result in minor changes, though they are not expected to be material.
  2. Peak membership during the respective fiscal year is in parentheses.
  3. Final registration from New Orleans versus latest estimated figures for Palm Springs.










ATA at the International Association of Business Communicators

Masaka Fujiware and ATA Past President David Rumsey at the ATA table.

With chapters in over 100 countries, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)1 is one of the largest professional associations dedicated to corporate communications in the world. Officially created in 1970, IABC has roots in the original American Association of Industrial Editors founded in 1938.

IABC attracts writers and communicators who work within the fields of human resources, training, public relations, marketing, advertising, government relations, and investor relations. As the field has become more international, and as companies and corporations expand their operations around the globe, translation and interpreting has become increasingly important to the world of corporate communications. IABC has published articles from ATA’s Public Relations Writers Group2 in their trade magazine that is distributed worldwide.

The challenges involved with managing communications for multilingual workforces and audiences was the topic on the minds of the thousands of IABC members who gathered in Vancouver, British Columbia in June 2019 for the World Conference of IABC. ATA was there to help answer their questions. With the help of three other local ATA members—Ana-Maria Zuniga, Masaka Fujiware, and Olivia Ocana-Quintana—ATA hosted a table at the conference that provided both fun gift items (beer coasters!) and advice.

As opposed to providing an explicit session on translation and/or interpreting with a limited audience, this time ATA decided to reinforce its relationship with IABC by hosting a table. This approach allowed us to provide more direct and specific advice to the thousands of attendees at the conference. It was fascinating to learn of the various scenarios that these direct clients face in terms of translation and interpreting.

Many of the people involved in human resources deal with multilingual staff in overseas operations that require not just translation for multilingual training manuals, but also voice talent for videos that will be played to staff worldwide. Human resource departments are often also tasked with finding interpreters for visitors to their company. Advertisers and marketers have very specific needs in terms of translation that are often best suited to transcreation and multilingual copywriting. Conversely, speed is the most important factor for clients working in the fields of public relations and investor relations, and many of them are looking to machine translation to help solve their issues—often with disappointing results.

Our ATA member volunteers staffing the table were able to provide solutions for attendees in terms of explaining how to best use machine translation, the growing field of transcreation, and the ABC’s of translation and interpreting in general. Although there were a few ATA members among the attendees (thanks for saying hi!), the vast majority of attendees had very little understanding of foreign languages and translation/interpreting in general. They were all deeply appreciative of the materials we were able to provide, including Translation: Getting it Right! and Interpreting: Getting It Right!.3

Being able to connect with the actual users/buyers of translation/interpreting services has been the strategic approach of ATA’s Public Relations Committee for several years. Helping these people understand the keys to successful translation/interpreting projects benefits not only the buyers, but also us as translators and interpreters.

Ana-Maria Zuniga and ATA Past President David Rumsey at the ATA table.

Although the cost of hosting an information table at a professional trade conference may be prohibitive for individuals, it can be something for corporate members within ATA to consider. Individual members can always attend the conference as speakers or regular participants and use their networking skills to make direct connections with the end users of translation/interpreting services. Here are a few tips to keep in mind in that case:

1. Rehearse an elevator speech. You don’t need to start with the speech. It’s often easier to break the ice by asking someone a question or providing a comment. Then explain who you are.

2. Take advantage of the breaks. If you’re there as an attendee, you really will not have much of a chance to communicate during the sessions. But the coffee breaks provide an ideal time with which to approach people. It can also be advantageous to skip some sessions and hang out in the lounge area where other people are taking a break and tend to be in a more receptive mood.

3. Take advantage of social media. Find out if there is an app for the conference and be sure to download it and start using it before you arrive. Make use of any conference hashtags as well or create your own.

4. Sit in the front row. If you’re going to attend any sessions, make sure you sit in the front row where it will be easy for you to ask questions and perhaps add your own perspective on the session. If you found a speaker particularly helpful, contact them directly afterwards and consider collaborating.

5. Eat in the hotel. It may feel a little lonely, but you are at this conference to make connections. There are guaranteed to be other conference attendees who are also faced with the prospect of eating alone at the hotel. You can provide good company and good information.

  1. International Association of Business Communicators,
  2. ATA’s print and digital outreach campaign began in January 2016. To date, 22 articles have appeared in more than 140 professional and trade publications. Take a minute now to find out more:
  3. Translation: Getting it Right! and Interpreting: Getting It Right! can be found at

David Rumsey is a past president of ATA (2015–2017). In that position, he was in contact with several key players within government and industry and has provided sessions on translation and interpreting at the International Association of Business Communicators, Society for Technical Communication, the Globalization and Localization Association, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and U.S. Interagency Language Roundtable. He has been featured on CNBC and PBS’ Nightly Business Hour. Since entering the profession in 1990, he has worked on all sides of the industry, including as a project manager at two U.S.-based agencies, a project manager for localization efforts at a large software firm, and as a freelance translator since 2004 from his home near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Contact:

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